I get asked weekly “how did you become a wedding planner?” and my usual answer is “a lot of hard work”, but today I’ll actually go into it and share some of the road that I have traveled. Unlike many careers where you get a degree, intern, then get a job in said career, there really is no regulated or set way to become a wedding coordinator/planner. Funnily enough, I did not go into this because I’m in love with weddings, I went into wedding planning because I’ve always wanted to own my own company and I believed (and still do) that I have the personality traits to be a good planner. Thankfully, I do like weddings!
So how does one become a wedding planner?
First off, you have to get access to the wedding community. Just calling or emailing a wedding planner saying, “Weddings are my passion!!!!! Can I have a job?” will get you nowhere 99.99% of the time. I recommend joining an association, taking their certification courses, and finding out how and where the wedding industry networks. Association of Bridal Consultants, June Weddings, and Weddings Beautiful are all recommended. Courses and seminars are fine and dandy, but until you spend some time in the trenches getting dirty, you don’t know squat about weddings. I don’t care if you planned your own wedding: attending a wedding as a guest or a bride is nowhere near the reality of working as a planner. Trust me.
Once you find out where we planners network, you come network with us. Networking is crucial in this industry, so you better get used to and get good at it. Coming to network with us takes guts, and we recognize that, and so we’re open to talking with you just because of this. I don’t recommend coming in with a business card with your new company name on it though, because you need to be honest and tell us what experience you have. If you have zero to little experience, please please please don’t take on a bride and use her as your guinea pig. You could inadvertently ruin her wedding day and tarnish the respect that professional coordinators work so hard to obtain in this industry.
Once you have found a potential mentor, you intern until we trust you enough to start scheduling you as an assistant. Because our reputations are always on the line and our staff reflects us, we rarely give second chances. So if you show up dressed in a cocktail dress and heels when my intern agreement states to wear black pants and comfy shoes, you won’t be working with me again. All of this takes guts, time, and commitment, but when word starts to get around that you are smart AND hardworking you start to get paid to work weddings and you start to become seasoned.
Once you feel like you have trained enough and can start taking on your own clients, you have to start building your business: branding, website, portfolio, marketing, etc. I recommend working with a business coach in order to start up correctly and get your policies and procedures in order. Then you have to start finding clients. And if you find the magic answer to that question, let me know, will you? In my case it is a mixture of networking, advertising, and optimism. Be prepared to get turned down a lot—it’s part of the gig.
Once you start booking clients, you have to learn how to be a chameleon but stay true to yourself. You have to juggle multiple clients who all have different personalities and ways that they need to be treated. You have work with the other vendors yet still make sure that your loyalties are with your client. You have to deal with family issues that pop up and know when to shut your mouth and when to give advice. You have to know your value and not accept less than you know you’re worth. You have to figure out a way to balance out your personal and family life in order to prevent burnout. You have to be ok with 14 hour days, intense manual labor, and the loss of weekends. You have to possess tact, speed, composure, grace, propriety, intelligence, a backbone, a sense of humor, and incredibly thick skin. You have to truly care about people and provide the type of support that they need. You have to know that nobody is going to build a business or a career for you. And you have to work very, very hard.